MUSIC: Gillian Wills
From: The Australian
May 11, 2010 12:00AM
Encounters: Musical Meetings Between Australia and China.
The Queensland Conservatorium, May 6-9.
COINCIDING with the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, the Queensland Conservatorium mounted an ambitious, robust program to celebrate and probe the complex musical relationships between Australia and China.
Much more significant than a traditional music conference, the themes were explored through discussion and
Contributors included composers Gao Ping and John Huie, sheng player Wang Zheng-Ting and percussionist Vanessa
Workshops scrutinised Sichuan music, the spiritual music of Buddhism and Taoism and kunqu, or traditional Chinese opera. Concerts featured the local Sunshine Philharmonic Choir and a dazzling pipa virtuoso from Beijing.
There were film screenings of Lulu’s Opera House, a photography exhibition and discussions about the impact of
Chinese theatre and opera during the gold rush years.
Impressively, the opening concert premiered three Australian and three Chinese works, performed by the New Purple Forbidden City Orchestra from the Central Conservatory of Beijing and Queensland’s Golden Orb ensemble. The
concert is to be repeated at Beijing’s Modern Music Festival later in the month.
Curator Nicholas Ng aimed to broaden western perceptions of Chinese music – with traditional forms to folk,
contemporary and jazz – and asked audiences to consider whether pieces derived from a fusion of Australian and
Chinese idioms are evolving in to a new musical genre.
A provocative series of discussions was chaired by Vincent Plush with Anne Boyd and John Curro as panel members.
One intense discussion asked whether there are moral or economic ramifications when composers such as Puccini or
Larry Sitsky (in his Violin Concerto No.3) borrow from Chinese music.
The concluding concert, Harvest of Endurance, featured the Song Company and conductor Roland Peelman.
It included the work of 18 composers – Betty Beath, Elena Kats-Chernin, Erik Griswold and Kim Cunio among them –
and narration by William Yang.
Each evocative piece reflected on a different painting from a 50m scroll that charts the history and suffering endured by Chinese immigrants.
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